A largely unmasked group of about 40 people gathered behind a Saskatoon hospital on Monday to protest measures meant to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The silent vigil, alongside other Monday protests across the country, was organized by a group called "Canadian Frontline Nurses." According to its website, the group is against "tyrannical measures and government overreach." In one video posted to the site, a woman identified as a nurse speaks against mandating children to be masked.
The Saskatoon group met in a circle in Kinsmen Park behind City Hospital and stood mostly quiet except for some heated exchanges with a masked man questioning the group about its beliefs.
Kevin Boychuk, the People's Party of Canada candidate for Saskatoon-West, was one of the protesters.
"I think it's important to have the ability of choice, the freedom of choice," Boychuk said. "We're seeing an inability for people to exercise their freedom of choice when it comes to vaccines."
Late last week, the Saskatchewan Health Authority announced it would require all of its employees to show proof of vaccination or else submit to regular testing for COVID-19.
"They're saying we're not mandating anything yet," Boychuk said of the provincial government. "[But] they're silently sitting by and watching departments that they govern institute draconian measures against the people that they were elected by."
Nicole Rimmer was among a group of counter-protesters who faced the anti-measures group holding signs saying, "For the love of God, don't harass the sick and the people working to heal them," and "Support health care workers; follow recommendations!"
Rimmer said she has friends who work in hospitals, care homes and schools.
"I'm not saying this is easy for everyone, but we have a responsibility to protect each other and I don't hear any talk of that here," she said of the protesters. "It's all about themselves."
The anti-measures group thinned out once a man installed himself in the middle of the circle and began to call vaccines poison with the help of a loudspeaker.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe recently publicly condemned people who are protesting COVID-19 measures at hospital sites.
"Our folks that are working in the hospital, in particular those that are working in our ICU departments, do not need to hear those types of protests," Moe said. "The appropriate place for that type of a policy disagreement would be our provincial legislature in Regina."
As of Sunday, there were 198 infected people in Saskatchewan hospitals, the highest that figure has been since April 20, when there were 195 COVID-patients in hospital.